The 2009 CEA Line Shows

The 2009 CEA Line Shows

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Among the many highlights of the recently concluded CEA Line Shows event held in Manhattan, New York, back in June were the keynote speech given by President Barack Obama’s Chief Technology Officer, Aneesh Chopra; Gilbert Fiorentino of Systemax Technology Products Group and his Retail 2.0 strategy session; and the event’s “NY Tech Start-Up Classic” conference that featured several plucky start-ups competing for free booth space at the 2010 International CES.

But before we look at those events, we’d like to thank this year’s exhibitors and look forward to another successful CEA Line Shows event next year.

Retail 2.0 – Making Retail More Interactive

Dynamic presenter Gilbert Fiorentino, Chief Executive of the Technology Products Group at Systemax, parent company of CompUSA and TigerDirect

Gilbert Fiorentino, chief executive of Systemax’s Technology Products Group, has more than a few strong opinions about brick-and-mortar and Internet retailing. And he knows whereof he speaks, as a principal in the company that bought the remains of CompUSA last year and Circuit City this year and has created a new retail model that leverages the strong points of both selling formats.

He has implemented his model, “Retail 2.0,” online and in 29 retail storefronts of CompUSA and has recently begun the acquisition of Circuit City’s brand name and the relaunch of its Web site. “We’re already No. 9 in computers and electronics sales, and for the combined sales of CompUSA, Circuit City and TigerDirect.com, we’re No. 3,” he told the audience at a CEA Line Shows session last month.

“Is there a conceivable world where retail stores are replaced by the Internet? I don’t think so. People like to touch and feel products. And the event of unboxing is as satisfying as the event of ownership. The Internet doesn’t replace retail, but retail has to change.”

He said that in surveying the CompUSA store setup, he found an average of 177 screens “on display and doing nothing. It’s just like most TV stores—all the screens are playing ‘The Lion King.’ Can you see the back? No. Can you see accessories? No.” So his tactic, he said, is to employ rich Internet content by tethering computers via HDMI cables to each TV screen and using on-screen messaging that includes vendor-specific content.

“The products literally call out their own features,” he explained, “and if the customer presses a key on the computer, up comes a home page with features, user reviews, manuals. The whole store becomes interactive. It means that the same number of sales associates can handle more customers better, and the associate can self-educate when not busy.”

After implementing this and other similar interactive product displays in a single location, Fiorentino said he saw a 20-percent increase in sales conversion.

CEA Line Shows Tech Meet Winners

The CEA Line Shows held its “NY Tech Start-Up Classic” conference, part of the two-day event held at 7 West 34th Street last month and two companies emerged as winners—Aviary, a free image-editing Web site that specializes in Web design, and MakerBot, a firm that recently brought a 3-D printer to market that creates three-dimensional objects using a special ABS plastic. These two companies will receive free booth space at the 2010 International CES in Las Vegas.

To say the event featured unique and innovative technology would be a considerable understatement. With the promise to feature product demonstrations and presentations “of the most dynamic, cutting-edge technology emerging in the marketplace,” the plucky start-ups that presented their innovations did not disappoint. Five companies presented products to a curious crowd of tech journalists and judges who eventually selected the two winners in what they called, “a very difficult decision.”  

Nation’s First “Tech Officer” Looks to “Harness Power”
Aneesh Chopra, appointed as the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer by President Barack Obama, and Dealerscope editor Jeff O’Heir.

“As chief technology officer, it is incumbent upon me to achieve the goal of harnessing the power of technology and innovation to advance our nation’s economy,” explained Aneesh Chopra, appointed as the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer by President Barack Obama.

Chopra cited what he termed “four pillars” that would mark his goals in the newly created administration position. The first three pillars are: to harness potential for economic growth where technology-based innovation will play a significant role; to bring innovation platforms to bear on addressing key long-term priorities touching on health care and dependence on foreign oil; and to ensure the safety and security of the technology infrastructure.

In citing the fourth pillar, Chopra alluded to the content of the CEA Line Shows session that preceded his speech: “We want to bring the concepts of ‘Retail 2.0’ (a CE retailing approach being used by Systemax chief executive Gilbert Fiorentino that leverages aspects of the Internet in showroom-floor selling) to maximize the ‘conversion rate’ for doing things like getting people the jobs they need.”

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